September 24, 2010 in Region

Survivors recount deadly West Seattle shootings

Seattle Times staff
 

Lisa Sun says she isn’t sure why the woman she knew as “Grandma” spared her life.

Saroeun Phan told Sun to lock herself in her room Thursday afternoon in the cramped West Seattle home shared by 11 members three extended families. Phan then went from room to room, shooting at members of her family before she took her own life.

Saroeun Phan — known to some members of the household as Chhouy Harm — fatally shot her son-in-law and two teenage granddaughters, and wounded her daughter.

Sun, 28, escaped the carnage by staying in her room, she said this morning.

But she believes she also would have been shot had she left the room. She also thinks Phan, 60, would’ve kept on shooting if she hadn’t run out of ammunition, saving the last round for herself.

At least 20 gunshots were fired inside the house, Assistant Police Chief Jim Pugel said during a news conference this afternoon.

“Grandma just shot them for no reason,” said 17-year-old Tony Sun, a member of the family who arrived home shortly after the shootings to see police lining his street.

Kevin Harm, 16, had just returned to the home with his father, Chean Harm Phan, when his grandmother opened fire, hitting his father. Kevin said his grandmother shot at him five times, but missed.

He tried to get his two older sisters out of the house from a downstairs window, but both stayed in a room. One of the sisters was already wounded, he said.

Killed were his father, 43, and two of his sisters, Jennifer Harm, 17, and Melina Harm, 14. Kevin grabbed his other sister, Neveah, 7, and ran out of the house as the gunfire erupted, Sun said.

Kevin’s mother, who survived her bullet wounds, frantically told officers outside the home, “My mother has gone crazy,” police said.

Tony Sun identified the wounded woman as Thyda Harm, who was listed in satisfactory condition this morning at Harborview Medical Center. She is also known as Thyda Luellen. The motive for the shootings, the deadliest in Seattle in four years, is unknown. Pugel, during the news conference, said there is “still much that we don’t know.”

Lisa Sun says she doesn’t know what set Phan off.

Family members said Phan, who was in her 50s or 60s, had been struggling with schizophrenia and depression. They don’t know if she’d been taking her medication.

The Cambodian immigrant was described as the family matriarch.

“I can’t believe this,” said Tony Sun, who lives downstairs in the home.

Today, several family members returned to the home after police had completed their on-scene investigation. Blood stains were clearly visible on the carpet and furniture in the living room and a bedroom of the three-level home.

Authorities have not yet released the names of any of the family members, but Tony Sun and other relatives confirmed the names. However, some occupants of the house offered different names for Phan and Thyda Harm.

The house, in the 9400 block of 14th Avenue Southwest, is in the Highland Park section of West Seattle, an ethnically diverse neighborhood where signs for businesses are written in Vietnamese and Cambodian, as well as English.

Quarters were cramped. The property records indicate there are three bedrooms, 1-1/2 baths, but Tony Sun said they had been partitioned into seven separate sleeping quarters. Eleven people from two families were under one roof, trying to make ends meet, family members said.

They had all moved in last month.

Chean Harm Phan, the son-in-law, was a landscaper, and Thyda Harm worked at the Magic Lanes Bowling & Casino just down the street, and together they supported the three generations, Sun said. In their time off, the whole clan went down to Spokane Street, underneath the West Seattle Bridge, where they caught crab and salmon.

Police say that at about 1:30 p.m., someone in the home called 911 and reported that his grandmother had opened fire. Police arrived a short time later, as did the shooter’s husband, who charged past police lines and ran into the house, according to Travis Rowland, who was about a block away when the gunfire erupted.

There were more gunshots from inside the house, according to Seattle police spokesman Sean Whitcomb, and the husband came back out, unharmed. He told police his wife had shot herself.

When medics got inside, they were unable to save any of the gunshot victims. Two handguns were found at the residence, Whitcomb said. One was a 9-millimeter and the other was a .25-caliber, Pugel said. Police are still trying to determine how Phan obtained the weapons, he said.

The shooting is the deadliest in Seattle since March 2006, when Kyle Huff, 28, shot and killed six people and wounded two others in a house in Seattle’s Capitol Hill neighborhood before fatally shooting himself.


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